Elaine Trei may be relatively new to the local art scene, but she’s catching on quickly. The painter not only has her own gallery, she is also currently showing her watercolors and landscape oils in two venues and will soon see one of her works for sale at auction.
Trei currently has 11 oils and watercolors on display at Mr. B’s men’s clothing store in La Jolla and is also showing four pieces in the Rancho Santa Fe Art Guild’s Fall Harvest show. Her painting of three irises will be included in the Rancho Santa Fe Art Guild’s Artero Art Auction on Nov. 1.
When Trei, who lives in Del Mar, decided to make art her second career, she felt like she had little time to waste. Having spent more than 30 years as a physical therapist, she looked for the best training available.
“I chose exceptionally good people who could move me along as fast as I could go,” she said.
Trei took her early artistic training at Mira Costa College in 2002 before moving on to study watercolor painting with Solana Beach teacher Rikki Reinholz, whom she credits for giving her a helpful analysis of her work.
“She gives amazing critiques,” Trei said. “She doesn’t touch your paintings but helps you see the problems so that you can correct them and see the outcome. She’s just a wonderful teacher that way.”
Reinholz stands out as one of Trei’s key mentors, along with Meadow Gist at Jeff Watt’s Atelier in Encinitas.
Trei now feels completely at ease while working in watercolors and finds that she can paint quickly.
“When I put watercolor on the page, it’s almost like I can dance through it because I can work really fast,” she said. “With the watercolors there’s a real freshness that comes from them.”
While newer to oils, Trei is quickly adapting to that medium and likes to experiment with colors and work with complements.
“I haven’t found a way of applying oils as fast as watercolors, but my oils are starting to switch into that same freshness that I find with watercolors,” she said. “The colors are staying true and becoming more vibrant and dancing.”
Trei, who paints 20 to 30 hours per week, gains her inspiration from being out and about in nature. While out walking, she often carries a camera to photograph things she’d like to paint. Those things include everything from ephemeral cactus blossoms in various stages of bloom, to sea lavender along the Torrey Pines cliff.
Flowers are frequently the focus of Trei’s paintings because she enjoys painting the varied colors, designs and textures of each bloom.
“I feel far happier painting the actual fruit on a tree or the flowers in nature, rather than picking them and making a still life out of them,” Trei said.
After viewing a painting by 17th century artist Matthias Stom at the Lichtenstein museum in Vienna, Trias decided to incorporate one of his elements into her work.
“I loved a painting where Stom captured two musicians - a guitarist and a flautist – laughing,” she said. “That was the painting that helped me start painting people who were laughing.”
Trei is now completing a work depicting two little boys laughing.
“Their father photographed them when he was tickling their toes and I painted them because they’re so animated - and because I love to paint laughing people,” Trei said.
Last February, Trei opened her own studio-gallery at Canterbury Del Mar, which is located at 1011 Camino Del Mar, Suite 260. To increase awareness of her presence, she often sets up her paintings on the sidewalk along Camino del Mar where drivers traveling north can easily see them.
“I put out my ‘artist is in’ sign and people see it and come upstairs to my studio,” she said.
Call (858) 794-1680 for a viewing appointment at Trei’s gallery or visit her Web site at
Trei’s show at Mr. B’s (7925 Girard Ave., La Jolla) will remain on display through the holidays, and her work at the Rancho Santa Fe Art Guild will be available through Nov. 1.